CAMPAIGNS: PUBLIC AWARENESS; Stoking up the smoking ban ire

Client: Philip Morris Europe SA PR Team: In-house corporate affairs functions for nine European countries, co-ordinated by central office in Brussels plus Burson Marsteller Campaign: ‘Second-hand tobacco smoke in perspective’ Timescale: 5 June 1996 ongoing Cost: Estimated total budget pounds 1 million

Client: Philip Morris

Europe SA

PR Team: In-house corporate affairs functions for nine European

countries, co-ordinated by central office in Brussels plus Burson

Marsteller

Campaign: ‘Second-hand

tobacco smoke in perspective’

Timescale: 5 June 1996 ongoing

Cost: Estimated total budget pounds 1 million



Like its competitors, international cigarette marketer Philip Morris

has been subject to increasingly strict US government legislation on

smoking in public places. It is concerned that the European Union, where

it commands 30 per cent market share, is heading the same way.



With 40 EU anti-smoking laws in place the company set out to ‘protect

the rights of 97 million European smokers’ and challenge the perceived

dangers of passive smoking.



Since May last year, Philip Morris Europe has run two campaigns against

‘excessive’ government regulation. At the beginning of June 1996 it

launched phase three.



Objectives



To demonstrate that scientific evidence on secondhand tobacco smoke does

not justify smoking bans; and the European public favours private

efforts to accommodate smokers and non-smokers.



Tactics



Philip Morris kicked off its integrated marketing drive on 4 June,

unveiling a press advertising campaign by Bainsfair Sharkey Trott.



The ads compared the health risk factors scientific studies have

allocated to a range of activities, such as eating one biscuit a day,

with those of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke. The claim being

that none of these activities represented a ‘meaningful risk’. The ads

were placed in titles in nine European countries.



Philip Morris’ corporate affairs staff across Europe, in conjunction

with Burson-Marsteller, supported the ad campaign with heavyweight PR

starting with press conferences in the UK, Holland, Greece, Italy and

Spain.



Gallup research on the attitudes of 12,000 employees and management in

15 EU countries, was used to show that only a small minority believe the

government should decide whether people can smoke at work. B-M produced

brochures backing the argument and made versions available on Philip

Morris’ web site.



A second wave of ads focused on developing sensible smoking policies at

work, in restaurants and public places with guidelines available on

developing policies.



Results



The campaign caused a stir. More than 350 related items have appeared in

European publications over the last month and Philip Morris spokesmen

interviewed on broadcast media across Europe. In the UK, highlights were

vice president, corporate affairs David Greenberg’s appearances on Radio

4’s Today programme and BBC2’s Working Lunch.



On 25 June a French court banned the advertising campaign following a

plaintiff from the French biscuit industry. Vitriolic criticism emerged

from some quarters of the British press, including accusations of

ignoring the alleged links of passive smoking to respiratory diseases,

coronary heart disease and cot deaths.



Some believed this was polemic posing as science and that the data

created confusion rather than understanding.



Verdict



Sean Murray, Philip Morris’ EU communications manager, says the main aim

was to stimulate debate - and in the short term the campaign has

certainly achieved that.



‘We’ve had a tremendous response from the public and raised the level of

debate from one of emotion to rationality,’ says Murray.



The company obviously hopes that taking the moral high ground and

questioning political correctness will provide it with a semblance of

public approval. Whether this is true and legislation is prevented, only

time will tell.



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